Out in the Cold: Homeless Children in Crisis in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

From the Executive Summary of the report:

"In September 2012, Massachusetts imposed new restrictions on eligibility for emergency shelter for homeless families with children. Under the new regulations, many families are not eligible for shelter until they become so desperate that their children have to sleep to in a “place not meant for human habitation.” Since September, more than 160 families – including hundreds of children –were placed in shelter only after sleeping in places not meant for human habitation. This figure is based on the Commonwealth’s own data, and consistent with the authors’ first-hand experience.

These families are sleeping outside, in abandoned buildings, in emergency rooms at great expense to the Commonwealth and the health care system, and in cars – including on some of the most frigid nights of the year.

The current policy is immoral, unacceptable, and unnecessary. It is needlessly placing the lives and health of children and their families at risk. And it is wasting more state resources than it is saving.

Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple: For less than $100,000 per year, homeless children can be provided with shelter before they have to stay in a place not meant for human habitation.

The answer to homelessness is greater investment in more affordable housing. But such investments should not come at the expense of children who are being denied both housing and shelter. Access to shelter should not be cut off unless and until these families can be housed instead. That – not the policy currently being implemented – would be true “Housing First.”

The new Massachusetts policies are, literally, leaving children out in the cold. As explained in this report, we can and must do better.

We call on our State Government to protect these children by making families who are at imminent risk of staying in a place not meant for human habitation eligible for shelter.

MLRI, April 2013"

Click the "Go to Website" link below to download the full report from MLRI's website.